While mixed martial fans are clamoring to see Invicta FC featherweight titleholder Cris “Cyborg” Justino fight UFC women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie, there’s another fighter who might take exception to that – one who probably has more claim to a match with the Cyborg than de Randamie.
In January at Invicta FC 21, Megan Anderson shocked the MMA world when she finished Charmaine Tweet in the second round to claim the Invicta FC interim featherweight championship. Although there was no explanation as to why Invicta held an interim featherweight title bout between Anderson and Tweet for the main event, there was speculation it was due to the inactivity of Justino, who has competed in Invicta since January 2016. MMA promotions establish interim titles when a champion is going to be inactive for a lengthy period of time – injury, contract dispute, personal circumstances or other reasons.
In an interview with MMA Junkie during UFC 209 weekend, Anderson answered questions regarding a possible fight with Justino down the road.
Anderson said that she and her team would be ready for the Cyborg fight, the UFC won’t let Justino return to Invicta to defend her title. In the past, the UFC has let Justino defend her Invicta FC title, but that was before she fought in the octagon for the first time.
During the interview, Anderson also said she thinks Invicta needs to clear up the featherweight title picture “because if Cris isn’t coming back, then she’s no longer in the organization.”
If that is indeed the case and Justino is no longer on the Invicta Fighting Championships roster, then the company should formally strip her of the title and promote Anderson, who already has the interim title, as the undisputed featherweight champion.
In the past, Invicta has stripped their champions when they jumped to the UFC – specifically former strawweight champion Carla Esparza and former bantamweight titleholder Lauren Murphy – and this situation with Justino and the UFC isn’t that different. It’s also not fair to Anderson and the other fighters in Invicta’s 145 division that they can’t compete for the undisputed featherweight title and raise their stock as competitors.
I can see the appeal of Invicta keeping Justino’s name on the featherweight title because she one of the most beloved fighters in the sport and she’s a draw for the hardcore women’s MMA fans who have watched her destroy opponents for the last decade. She also hasn’t been beat for the title in the first place. But there’s no point of the promotion keeping the belt on Justino if she cannot return to defend it.
While Justino hasn’t set foot in the Invicta cage in over a year, Anderson has risen to the top of the featherweight division, winning her last four fights – with all four being stoppages – and two “Performance of the Night” bonuses.
By promoting Anderson to undisputed featherweight champion, Invicta has a star for their featherweight division – a new star – that they can depend on. One of the things I’ve always liked about Invicta FC is they’re willing to promote their champions as the biggest acts in their organization, even over established fighters who have been with company for a short time.
If Justino is gone from the company, then Anderson is the true Invicta FC featherweight champion.